(Photo courtesy bryanterrellclark.com)
Bryan Terrell Clark has been with the Broadway production of “Hamilton” almost since its inception, and he assumed the role of George Washington in January. We talked to him about what makes the musical uniquely successful.
The Orange County Register: You’ve been involved with other musicals. Why is this one different?
Bryan Terrell Clark: Several things. It pushes the art form forward. It’s almost a combination of a Broadway musical and a Shakespeare play. Then you consider the sound and the rhythm of hip-hop, and it makes for a powerful and unique experience. The (rap music) increases the power of the text. I love that it’s a hybrid of things that are familiar, yet you have something completely new – the first of its kind.
Register: Can the achievements of “Hamilton” be easily duplicated?
Clark: I don’t believe we’re going to see a lot of shows take a similar form, and that’s maybe a good thing. Consider (Lin-Manuel Miranda): he comes from a special background. He has combined what he loves – theater, hip-hop, language, music of all kinds – and combined them in a way that is his own.
Register: What external elements contributed to “Hamilton’s” success?
Clark: Serendipity played a part. It’s speaking to a lot of the cultural and political things that are in the air right now, so it was instantly relevant. Also, putting people of color on stage in parts that would have traditionally been played by white people; that makes many more people feel connected to the theater, from high school students to immigrants to politicians. Whether you’re a theater person or not, there’s something there that makes you feel deeply connected to it.
Register: Does “Hamilton” acknowledge any of the age-old rules of Broadway?
Clark: Of course. The structure of the show feels like classic musical theater. There is a love story. You have your protagonist and your antagonist. There’s an 11 o’clock number, an “I want” song. And the story is familiar – it’s about the founding of America, which every American knows.
Register: “Hamilton” opens in London in November. Will it find enthusiastic audiences in other countries, or is it strictly an American phenomenon?
Clark: I think it’s going to work because of the performance element of it – it’s very exciting to watch it…